Thursday, April 8, 2010

royalties on Total Loss Farm

INTERN was looking through Hippie Roommate's collection of 1970's-era homesteading books last night when she discovered an (apparently classic) tome called Home Comfort: Life on Total Loss Farm. The book was co-written by a dozen or so people who lived on the farm, and discusses everything from well-digging to psychic farming to the challenges of maintaining healthy group vibrations over the course of a Vermont winter.

There's a small section about farm economics—how much money the farm members need to make in a given year to cover the mortgage and property taxes, how the communal checking account works, and where the money comes from.

At this point, the author of the section reveals that most of the commune's income comes from book royalties. He then casually lists six titles from publishers like Knopf, Random House, and Harper & Row.

This blew INTERN's dome.

These cheese-making, outhouse-going, back-to-the-land folks were also published authors whose poetry, fiction, and sustainable living books were sustaining their cheese-making, outhouse-going living.

And somehow, in between feeding the woodstove and repairing a collapsing barn, they found the motivation to keep writing books—longhand, in an often snow-bound cabin.

Suffice to say, INTERN is terribly impressed and inspired and twinkly-eyed over all this. Why don't more writers start living collectively—in an abandoned hunting cabin or a city squat, where they could live rent-free and income from royalties would actually amount to something? What could ever go wrong with such a plan? It would be utopia! Utopia!!!!!!!

Off to hunt down some of the titles on the Total Loss Farm list!

19 comments:

  1. Dear Intern,

    One must wonder at this new-aged Utopia. Especially when it involves psychic farming (does the plow push itself as a result of psychic vibrations?). Are these the same vibrations that keep the group dynamic healthy?

    As a writer who doesn't much care for cheese and who simply adores indoor plumbing, I fear I might lose the creative spark somewhere in the outhouse.

    ReplyDelete
  2. See, that was the seventies.

    I've an acre, a few fruit trees, a book contract, and plenty of spare room if you don't mind patching up the holes in the floor. Indoor plumbing of a sort. Bonus points if you can talk the next-door-neighbor out of working on his racing ATV 24/7.

    Anybody?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting concept. I've often wondered if there was some way all us writers out here in blog land can support one another by buying each other's books? A sort of virtual commune, you might say. I know we do it in small bits here and there, but if there were some way to organize it into this huge communal buy & sell of one another's published works. No, I'm not talking Amazon. The potential is out there, your post touched on an element of it, and I think it could work in the virtual world if some great brain could figure it out.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Let us know if any of their books turn out to be any good, will you?

    ReplyDelete
  5. This post made me hungry for cheese. And writing. Weird.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gonna have to track down what happened next to the individuals in the group because the mind flits immediately to the hatchet attacks, pouting sessions when so-and-so didn't like so-and-so's first draft. It would be great if it worked, really, but I keep thinking of Fleetwood Mac's final days. It's hard enough to get everyone in a family to like and live with each other and they aren't creative people who all do the same thing, with paychecks and audiences and book sales to compare...

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think this is exactly the sort of thing I'm trying to recreate with my whole lifestyle. So far, there are only three permanent members of my little "commune," and the township won't let us have chickens or goats. (Sigh.) But I have a barnlike shed and vegetables, fruits, and nuts growing. We chop wood and use a manual mower and other old school shenanigans.

    Except my homestead has indoor plumbing! And most of the vibrations in my house come from the subwoofer roaring out Rammstein and Dethklok. Perhaps I need more females at the homestead on a permanent basis.

    But I'm not giving up my wireless internet or my dishwasher. Heck no. Otherwise, I love this idea to pieces.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Psychic farming! I used to be a farmer, a plumber, and now I'm a psychic. I'd be welcome. I write, I chop wood, I garden, I butcher meat, yep! I'm in.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I salute your surviving idealism. I would have concluded that a commune of that sort couldn't work unless you had successful writers writing about communes in it. Utopia can only have so many of those.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Orwell did the same thing at Jura, Shelly with Italy. The list goes on. WTB partners in crime.

    The primary problem, as Orwell and Shelly both saw, is that writers are stereotypically introverted and opinionated creatures: they don't do well with social interaction but feel compelled to talk about the most uncomfortable topics. Hence, not so Utopian.

    Still, I want. (I found you through DGLM: you have a new subscriber now.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I live in a commune! There's an infant, toddler, and spouseman who reside with me. However, the only bacon homebringer is the spouse, and he doesn't write novels. The idea of the infant and toddler bringing home the bacon doesn't sit right with me, and the neighbors and city of Goose Creek have vetoed our beloved laying hens (Ernie and Bert). So we caught frogs and built them a little pond. Their eggs aren't half so awesome as Ernie and Bert's, but at least they keep the bugs from eating our peas and lettuce.

    ReplyDelete
  12. p.s.-no, we don't eat frog eggs...

    verification words: piliprat (n): one who doesn't approve of backyard chickens.

    ReplyDelete
  13. would we have to share an internet connection? 'cause that would be a little too much communal living ;-j

    ReplyDelete
  14. INTERN... too bad you missed the BERKELEY BARB!

    (And it's, HIPPY. I know, I were one, sort-of)!

    Haste yee back ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think that was Walden. And, yes, it does sound heavenly.

    And, I have to recommend the documentary "Commune" on Netflix. (Definitely an eye-opener, as was "American Swingers".) One of the hippie-love-child products of the commune is currently a Self-Help Book Editor. I want her job!

    ReplyDelete
  16. The real question would be, would the fact that the book was written by a member of such a community be a point of publisher-interest? Would people line up at their friendly neighborhood library/bookstore for the next volume produced by a resident of the Total Loss Farm?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Zeal,

    If you lived in the 60's, you got in lines you did't know, or care, where they went. And sometimes, you were a line unto yourself!

    Haste yee back ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Haste,

    That sounds like one heck of an Ouroboros. Fodder for a short story, perhaps? Perhaps!

    -ZoZ

    ReplyDelete
  19. I would like to live with a bunch of other royalty-paid authors to sustain my cheese-making. I wouldn't be the one doing the writing, of course. Just the cheese-making.

    ReplyDelete